Tony Williams is Bristol blooded, NYC based, and globally showcased DJ/Producer Addison Groove. On January 24th, he was back in Chicago for the first time in four years and we met up to chat with him. Addison Groove has a unique musical magnetism that is drawing fans and industry members to his productions and club nights.
Teklife is a Chicago based imprint most acknowledged for bringing the footwork movement to a global level. One of its most innovative members, and close friend of Tony’s was the late DJ Rashad— who, along with DJ Spinn, was specifically influential in landing footwork on UK labels such as Hyperdub and Swamp 81.
Many from the Teklife crew were attending in full-effect during Addison Groove’s set at Chicago’s Smart Bar. The club’s high energy escalated as Tony mixed off three-decks, throwing down a diverse selection of heavy hitting tunes. From Tessela’s techno-nu-jungley “Hackney Parrot” to Rashad’s footwork classic “I Don’t Give A Fuck”, and Dope Skillz’ old school jungle tune “6 Million Ways to Die”, he created an experience that is difficult to replicate or compare. Also worth noting is how seldom his headphones were used throughout the set.
You have a musical connection to Chicago’s footwork and juke culture. Why has it been so long since you’ve visited last?
I have more of a connection now then I’ve had previously during my career. I was [Headhunter] a dubstep DJ when I came here the first time and wasn’t connected to Chicago in any real way. It wasn’t until I started to discover footwork and get in touch with people that live here and make footwork music that I became associated with this place.
With releases like “Footcrab”, which gained mass recognition, you’ve been propelling the sound waves of Chicago’s juke style.
I discovered juke when no one else was paying attention to it. In 2008 I found the music on YouTube, all I saw was this crazy dancing and the music. I had an idea that I wanted to make a dubstep track with a juke template, so I took the juke sounds, which is like 808 noises, and made a dubstep tune. I made a bunch of stuff, but [Footcrab] was the one that came through.
I recently watched a documentary on footwork in Chicago, around the Teklife crew. That’s when I learned how dancing is such a big part of the culture, and all the footwork DJs can actually dance. Are you a dancer as well?
Haha no way. The dancing was amazing, visually it is crazy, but what really got me was the sound of it. I didn’t know if I liked it when I heard it so I was forced to make my own decision because there was no reference.There were only three times in my life that music made me feel a certain way- early rave was when I was young, dubstep when I was 23, and then footwork. It was like aliens have come down from space and made some music… it was just so fucking far out man. Finding new sounds in this day and age is really difficult so [Footwork] was the last new sound I heard that really threw me off and thought, “wow this is cool”.
You have footwork forward productions and a dubby layered DJ sound, but as a whole, your musical style is very difficult for me to pinpoint- how would you describe your current sound?
Drumming is one of the most important aspects of what I play and what I make. I like to listen to a lot of South American music because their rhythms are so complex that I don’t understand it. If I can’t name what it is then I’m probably into it… but it’s hard for me even in myself to pinpoint what I am. I think the good thing about the people that book me is they can’t put me into a category, I find myself doing different types of parties every week.
What’s the best experience you’ve ever had DJing?
Three years ago I did the opening DJ set at Glastonbury festival. They opened at 1:10 on a Thursday and I played after this pop star called Ke$ha. It was the only thing open so everyone was at this tent, there were probably 20,000 people it was so fucking cool. I played all the genres… the first track was “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust and everyone went off to it, and then I ended with jungle and played everything in between.
I love that you played directly following Ke$ha and by the end of your set you’d carried the crowd into jungle… respect! In contrast, has there been a time you felt your music was ill-received?
Na, I mean one time I played an afterparty for a friend in San Diego. I come on after this hip-hop DJ and I started playing hip-hop and R&B because the dancefloor was all filled with girls. Then I mixed an R&B tune to a jungle tune just to test the crowd. A girl comes up to me and she’s like, “Really sorry but I’m trying to get laid tonight, can you play more hip-hop?” [Laughing]. You know what I love old school hip-hop and R&B. I have a folder of that shit, LL Cool J, Eve, I just played it all night. The girls loved me, which is great, and I think someone got laid. That was quite funny.
In your productions the 808 and 909 sounds are both prominent between jabs of vocal samples, and you use a lot of really weird but interesting noises. If you could choose a favourite electronic noise what would it be?
My favorite electronic noise… oh man… don’t know really, it’s hard to say. I really like the Rhodes keyboard to play harmonics a lot. The woodblock is very nice, and the tom drum. I live in quite a quiet place that has got lots of wildlife. My studio is in the attic of my house so every now and then I put the microphone out the window for thirty minutes and record the birds going past. The sounds have been sampled in the background of my music but you can’t really tell. You might be like, “Oh is that a duck?” And it probably is.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the electronic music scene?
The thing is… I don’t know if electronic music had a good year last year. I’m not hearing loads of interesting stuff, there was some good stuff but not like previous years where I can go- 2010 was a good year for bass music, 2008 was a good year for dubstep.
Producers might be putting too much focus on quick and instant “success”, making bland and monotonous music that falls save to the popular but misguided EDM formula. What reasons make you feel as if 2014 wasn’t a particularly good year for electronic music?
I’ll tell you what needs to happen with EDM. Bands need to become popular again, and once bands become popular again electronic dance music will exist in the underground again, which is where it should exist. There’s so much spotlight on EDM that everybody’s picking its faults, finding what’s wrong with it. Rock music needs to become popular again and come back in a big way to take the limelight off EDM. Then, EDM will settle down and things will come back underground. The best things come out of the underground.
Addison Groove is to release tracks with Scratcha DVA on Hyperdrub this summer. 50 Weapons released his second album “Presents James Grieve” and his newest EP “Turn Up The Silence”, which can be found and purchased here.